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Number of urgent questions in the House of Commons since 1997

Published Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Urgent questions are a category of oral questions that allow all MPs not in the Government to put a question to a minister without the usual notice required for oral question time and without the need to be drawn in a ballot.

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The urgent questions procedure, governed by Standing Order 21(2), allows Members to apply to the Speaker to request that a minister come to the House to make a statement (and take questions) on an important issue at short notice. Notice of an application for an urgent question must be given to the Speaker's Office in advance of that day's sitting. The Speaker gives permission if in his opinion the question is:

"of an urgent character and relates to matters of public importance."

The Speaker's Office contacts the Member to let them know whether or not their application has been successful but does not provide feedback on unsuccessful requests.

Note: Until 2002, Urgent Questions were known as private notice questions

Urgent Questions in the House of Lords

Urgent questions in the House of Lords are still known as private notice questions. Peers can apply to the Lord Speaker to ask a private notice question. If granted, the relevant government department is informed immediately and the question is asked at the end of Question Time.

Background on parliamentary questions

See the Commons Library briefing on Parliamentary Questions: recent issues for more information on parliamentary questions.

Parliament: facts and figures

This series of publications contains data on various subjects relating to Parliament and Government. Topics include legislation, MPs, select committees, debates, divisions and Parliamentary procedure.


Please send any comments or corrections to the Parliament & Constitution Centre. Suggestions for new lists welcomed.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-8344

Author: Sarah Priddy

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